Here’s my game story, or at least how it starts, from Auburn’s win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. There will be more reflection coming on Sunday. Right now, I’m guessing most of you are busy out celebrating New Year’s.
ATLANTA Outgoing offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn had drawn a lot of criticism for Auburn’s struggles this season.
Hired at Arkansas State last month, Malzahn stuck around to call the plays in the Chick-fil-A Bowl for an Auburn offense that did not have its leading rusher and lost its starting quarterback early in the first quarter.
None of those factors made any difference.
Auburn blasted Virginia 43-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl behind a Malzahn-directed offense that featured a game plan built to highlight Auburn’s speed.
“He was on the aggressive side,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said. “We have a lot of speed, starting with Onterio (McCalebb), and we have some weapons they have to be concerned with.”
Replacing Michael Dyer, the bruising 210-pound star who is suspended for an undisclosed violation of team rules, fell to the speedy McCalebb, a 174-pounder who normally takes Auburn’s carries on the edge. Throughout bowl practices, McCalebb had been asked if he had the body type to be a feature back.
“I’ve been here for three years, and people say that I can’t do this or can’t do that,” McCalebb said. “I just wanted to go out and play my game.”
McCalebb finished with 109 yards rushing on 10 carries, caught two passes for 53 yards, scored two touchdowns and was named offensive MVP.
But the speedy junior wasn’t the only weapon Malzahn used. Freshman running back Tre Mason picked up 64 yards and scored on a 22-yard touchdown run. Emory Blake had six catches for 108 yards. Kiehl Frazier was used as the Tigers’ inside presence and picked up 55 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The offense took a little time to get in gear.
Both of Auburn’s first two drives ended badly, and starting quarterback Clint Moseley left the game in the first quarter with a leg injury. Moseley was on crutches after the game.
Malzahn replaced Moseley with Barrett Trotter, the junior who opened the season as Auburn’s starter before giving way to Moseley at halftime of the Florida game.
The decision came as a surprise. Most observers thought Auburn would put in Frazier, the highly-touted freshman. Trotter had taken reps as Auburn’s scout team quarterback at times in the week leading up to the game.
“There were times after not playing where you’re thinking, ‘Am I ever going to play again,” Trotter said. “As the backup, it’s kind of the role I’ve been in lately, you have to prepare to come in cold.” …
For the rest, check out the story at www.ledger-enquirer.com. Be back on New Year’s Day with more.